Letter or Postcard – Letter
Sender – Ralph Peterson
Recipient – Phyllis Peterson
Postmark Place – St. Petersburg, Florida
Postmark Date – 11 March 1943
Letter Date – 10 March 1943
My dearest wife,
At last the day is over and I can write to you again. That is the part of the day I like the best. Then I can sit down and write what I feel about you. Although I can think of a lot of things to write about during the daytime I can’t seem to write a thing at night. If my letters are a little bit dry just overlook them. Just overlook them and keep on writing the nice ones you are. I wait for them all day, and when I don’t get one I feel sort of down at the mouth, but then I think of letters that I will get the next day. It is really the only thing that keeps me going. Today was another hot day. We had our gas mask drill today. That is just putting it on and taking it off. You’re supposed to take them out of the case and put them on in thirty seconds. A kid and I timed ourselves today and we put them on in sixteen seconds. They say tomorrow we are going to get our first training with guns and we also will get our first actual smell of gas. We have to learn and identify each different kind. We will get a whiff of each one. You know – mustard, Lewisite, and about ten other kinds. They call that the gas chamber. Say, I will have a little time off the next couple of Sundays and I would like to take some pictures of myself and send them to you, so would you send a camera down here? You had better send mine because it will get a lot of rough handling on the way down. I can get the films down here. I will send some pictures of me home all slicked up in my uniform. Also, I will let you see what I look like in my work clothes. I don’t suppose I will look like much anyway. I will also send a picture of the guy from Coloma. Maybe you will know him. He used to go to all the dances around there. His name is Johnny Premo. There is also guy named Draeger down here. I thought for a while that he was your ex, but he isn’t. I haven’t got a letter from Alvin yet but I am expecting one pretty soon, and I am also patiently waiting for Sookie’s present. I hope it isn’t cigarettes, as I am trying to quit smoking. Going to save some of my money if I possibly can, and I haven’t touched a beer since I came in the army, so I am being the straight little boy and I am going to keep on being that way. I always will be truthful to you and when I get home I will be somebody you can be proud of. I won’t have nothing on my conscience. I want our baby to have a daddy his mother will always love and he will have a daddy who will always love his mother. As I am writing this I have a guy from Green Bay on my left and a guy from Michigan on my right. Both are real nice fellows and both are writing to their wives same time as I am writing to you. They both think of their wives as much as I think of you. They really love their wives to [?]. One of them is 24 and the other one 19, the same age as me. Billy’s aunt wrote him and told him it was still sort of cold up there. Let me know how cold it is up there and if it is too cold I will pack up some warm air and send it up there. If you think it is warm enough up there I will buy a little alligator and send it up to you. They are just about five inches long and they only grow to about four feet long. That would be a nice little playmate for the Rohde girls. This is all the stuff I can think about now and it is getting rather late so I will close with love and kisses from your soldier husband. Night, baby. Ralph.
PS – Signed the payroll tonight so will get a two week’s check one of the first days. Until next time, so long, sweetheart. RP.
Notes: Dad actually talked very little of his military service, but one thing he did speak freely of was that basic training gas experience. As for the local guys mentioned, I have no idea who Johnny Premo or the kid named Draeger was. Of course Alvin was Mom’s brother and Sookie was her sister, though I’m not sure which one. One of the odd quirks about Mom’s family was that they all had nicknames. For instance, my Mom’s name was Phyllis June Grant, but she was known in her family as “Maggie.” I’m not sure which one was “Sook,” but one of the cousins may. In later years Dad only occasionally had a beer, usually at a restaurant. He didn’t have them around the house at all, but he did smoke almost his entire life. He eventually quit cold turkey about 1990 when he had his aortic heart valve replaced. One Sunday morning when he had recovered and returned to work he and I were down at the bakery. I saw him at the work bench with paper and pencil, and I thought he was putting together supply orders for the next week. Instead, he stood up and said, “I just calculated how much I spent on cigarettes in my life.” It was in the thousands of dollars. He shook his head. “Think of all the stuff I could have got for the family if I hadn’t smoked.” One of my childhood memories from when I was 10-12 on was him handing my a few bucks and sending me through the back alley to go buy him a carton of Pall Mall’s (which he called “Pell Mell’s) at the A&P. They sold them to me without question. Those were different times. Finally, bizarre to think he toyed with the idea, even jokingly, of buying a baby gator and sending it north. Obviously some old Florida boy was bull-shitting him about them only growing to four feet. The Rohde girls Dad refers to were neighbors of Mom’s family in Neshkoro. They were Gladys, Arlouine, Violet, and Viola. It was in looking them up that I realized the Gilbert Dad mentions a couple letters back was their brother Gilbert Rohde. Not sure whether they were friends or not if Dad wanted to mail them a live gator.